Monday, July 14, 2008

AGJ #1: Mishler responds

In the comments to my review of Adventure Games Journal #1 a lot of people expressed dismay at the price of the mag. I have to admit that, given the prices, I probably wouldn't have bought a subscription had James not sent me a review copy. Anyway, here's what Mr. Mishler has to say about the price:
Hi guys! Sorry I've not replied earlier; I still don't have Internet access at home yet (this was written at the local library).

The price I think is reasonable. 48 pages per issue for $12 isn't bad when you realize that there are only two ads (both house ads) and save for the cover and the index/OGL page, everything is content. Compare that to any classic Dragon magazine and you will see that there are at least the same, if not more pages of content. Also realize that Dragon was subsidized by ads, while AGJ is not, so the full cost must go to the consumer.

As for printing, it is damned if you do, damned if you don't. I print at a Print on Demand printer, which means that the number printed can be very low, but the per unit cost is rather high. I cannot print at a standard printer, as to get even a half-decent discount I would need to print thousands of units, and the market just isn't that big anymore.

You can also compare it to the Paizo products. 96 pages for $19.95 from them; yes it is in full color, but again, they go through standard printers and print tens of thousands at a time, getting a much, much greater discount than I ever could. It is a matter of scale.

As for the subscriptions, a 3-issue sub actually includes three issues of the magazine and three issues of the campaign installment (the Judges Guide for the various Wilderlands settings) plus free maps and other goodies and discounts on non-sub products. So the $84 cost is actually $14 per unit, and that includes shipping and handling (all products are bagged and boarded and sent First Class Parcel). The 6-issue sub is even a better deal, at $144 or $12 per unit (six magazines and six installments). Essentially shipping is free for a 6-issue sub.

Subs are not offered at 50%+ discounts because, again, there is no subsidy from advertising. Print media is dying because of a lack of advertising; that's what killed Inquest, not to mention many, many other magazines and newspapers. And the gaming industry is even worse for advertising. Without that advertising, the full costs must be passed on to the buyer.

That's why the cost is so high on a per-unit basis. As a final thought, when you look around and say, "But so and so sold a 48-page product for only half that!" look to where that company is today... likely, they are out of business, as they were not charging what they needed to in order to make their product profitable...
Thanks for taking the time to respond, James. Some people are wondering about making AGJ and/or the campaign installments available as PDFs. What do you think of that idea?


  1. Anonymous12:32 PM

    It's not so much that I think that the cost is too high - that's a general problem with small run print. It's that PDF/electronic has become my default for books, especially rpg. It's not just cost but also a space issue.

    I think pdf also makes it easier for new customers to try something because there is less cost involved. Plus, your profit per unit might actually be higher.


  2. Anonymous6:37 PM

    I spoke up rather quickly about the price last time. I should clarify that I don't think it sounds like a bad deal. It just sounds like (well, is) more money that I have to spend. Which is too bad, because Wilderlands is one of the last great frontiers of Oldschoolery for me... I missed out on it as a youth but I'd like to get into it some day. For the money I'm sure Mishler delivers a great product.

    Myself, I really can't stand PDF or other electronic products. A print product is a true pleasure. Sadly, having actual printed books is becoming the province of the rich man.

  3. Anonymous10:19 PM

    I wonder how much savings would be realized if the publisher just laser-printed and hand-folded the AGJ, old-school 'zine style, rather than going with a pricy print-on-demand service?